Packham, Simon: The Bex Factor.
The Bex Factor
Piccadilly, 2011, pp216, 6.99 [pounds sterling]
978 1 84812 163 8
This novel will be popular in the run-up to Christmas each year, when the world of teenagers is dominated by the TV programme which has a very similar name to the title of this novel. Girl 'teens' over 9 or so will enjoy the story of Matt who accompanies his friend Bex at an audition for the 'Tingle Factor' on TV, and is 'talent-spotted' and unwittingly gets caught up in the process of finding a new pop-star.
Fans of the programme will recognise the caricatures of judges and sponsors who appear to care so much for their protegees (or is it just a false money-making scam?) The novel tackles the issues of privacy, and the abuse of the contestants' private lives to get votes. Anything goes--they take advantage of any problems the contestants have at home, and any love affairs or confrontations which take place in the 'Celebrity Conservatoire' for the sake of publicity. Nothing is true or innocent, and Matt is unwilling to forfeit his integrity for a chance of a recording contract unlike all the other contestants, and their parents/families. Cynical adults reading the book will probably think this is very likely to be near to the truth.
There are some interesting 'issues'--Matt's parents have split up, and his mother has MS and her reaction to her illness and treatment causes her to behave badly. This is an interesting change from the 'model patient' so often portrayed in literature.
Bex comes from a run-down estate, and her sister is a single parent, whilst her brother has been in trouble. Also she agrees to look after Matt's mother and sister during his time in the show, so we see a young girl coping as a carer. Add in some realistic relationships between Matt and 'Twilight' the girl singer in the competition, and between Matt and Bex, and the result is a well-rounded, entertaining and satisfying novel.